Drawing on a decade of experience in publishing, Ronit Wagman works on both fiction and nonfiction. She was an editor at Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, part of Random House Inc.
She has edited notable books such as Jules Feiffer's memoir Backing Into Forward, a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award, Jonathan Odell's novel The Healing, a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award that spent seven weeks on the Southern Independent bestseller list, Hannah Weyer's novel On the Come Up, a finalist for the NAACP Image Award and a Barnes & Noble Discover selection; Avi Steinberg's acclaimed memoir Running the Books, and Kirstin Downey's forthcoming biography Isabella: The Warrior Queen.
Ronit's select booklist can be found below.
"I couldn't put this book down. This world, this voice, this young woman are all so vividly raw and honest, that my heart was broken open, and I was hooked until the very last page." - Kerry Washington, actress, Scandal
AnnMarie is growing up fast. After years of living in foster homes and homeless shelters, the twelve-year-old girl can take care of herself and her ailing mother. At thirteen, she's competing with other girls for the attention of older boys in the hip hop and rap scene of Far Rockaway. At fourteen, she is in love and pregnant, but dreaming big. Taking a chance, she auditions for an independent film and - astonishingly - lands a lead role. As she tries to raise her baby girl and make sense of her relationship with her baby's father, her work on the movie offers AnnMarie a doorway to a wider world - Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the Sundance Film Festival.
With cinematic pacing and a vibrant voice, filmmaker Hannah Weyer’s unforgettable debut novel is a portrait of a tough, determined teenage girl striving to find the life she wants and the love she deserves.
“Amend creates suspense by charting in wincing detail Elm’s and Gabriel’s progress through ethically gray areas in the art market to unquestionably illegal acts... Well-wrought... the author meticulously delineates [her characters’] yearnings and frustrations... Cleverly rendered.” - The Washington Post
“Wonderfully witty and stylish... A smart page-turner... Amend creates very real characters who live in a very unreal world.” - Chicago Tribune
Elm Howells has a loving family and a distinguished career at an elite Manhattan art auction house. But after a tragic loss throws her into an emotional crisis, she pursues a reckless course of action that jeopardizes her personal and professional success. Meanwhile, talented artist Gabriel Connois wearies of remaining at the margins of the capricious Parisian art scene. Desperate for recognition, he embarks on a scheme that threatens his burgeoning reputation. As these narratives converge, with disastrous consequences, A Nearly Perfect Copy boldly challenges our presumptions about originality and authenticity, loss and replacement, and the perilous pursuit of perfection.
“Absorbing... A love letter to Galveston, its peculiar barrier island ways and the
shape that its isolated, ingrown history gives to relationships and events.” - Philadelphia City Paper
Mourning for her daughter and her crumbling marriage, photographer Clare Porterfield returns to her childhood home in Galveston, Texas, hoping to find distraction in mounting an exhibition featuring the island’s vivid history.
Things haven’t changed much during her decade away: her relationship with her mother and older sister is still fraught and competitive, and their neighbors, the Carradays, wield the same moneyed influence they have for generations. But Clare finds that she is now an outsider, out of step with the unique rhythms of Galveston life. As she copes with her grief by digging deeper into the past, she discovers secrets that have grown and multiplied like the wildflowers that climb up Island walls and fences - secrets that will give her a new understanding of her own history.
Plantation mistress Amanda Satterfield’s intense grief over losing her daughter crosses the line into madness when she takes a newborn slave child as her own and names her Granada. Troubled by his wife’s disturbing mental state and concerned about a mysterious plague that is sweeping through the plantation’s slave quarters, Master Satterfield purchases Polly Shine, a slave woman known as a healer who immediately senses a spark of the same gift in Granada. Soon, a domestic battle of wills begins, leading to a tragedy that weaves together three generations of strong Southern women.
Rich in mood and atmosphere, The Healing is a powerful, warmhearted novel about unbreakable bonds and the power of story to heal.
"A serious book, but rarely a heavy one: in a sprightly good-humoured way, Finkel communicates the thrill of true scholarship... This book does more than change the way we imagine the sources of a Bible story, however. It rescues cuneiform from its dusty place in the museum basement... Fresh and exciting." - Sunday Times
Since the Victorian period, it has been understood that the story of Noah, iconic in the Book of Genesis, and a central motif in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, derives from a much older story that existed centuries before in ancient Babylon. But the relationship between the Babylonian and biblical traditions was shrouded in mystery. Then, in 2009, Irving Finkel, a curator at the British Museum and a world authority on ancient Mesopotamia, found himself playing detective when a member of the public arrived at the museum with an intriguing cuneiform tablet from a family collection. Not only did the tablet reveal a new version of the Babylonian Flood Story, the ancient poet described the size and completely unexpected shape of the ark, and gave detailed boat building specifications. Decoding this ancient message wedge by cuneiform wedge, Dr. Finkel discovered where the Babylonians believed the ark came to rest and developed a new explanation of how the old story ultimately found its way into the Bible. In The Ark Before Noah, Dr. Finkel takes us on an adventurous voyage of discovery, opening the door to an enthralling world of ancient voices and new meanings.
"This is the kind of extraordinary book you'll finish in a day, and think about for months and years after." - Koren Zailckas, bestselling author of Smashed
In the vein of Prozac Nation and Girl, Interrupted, an electrifying memoir about a young woman's promiscuous and self-destructive spiral after being cast out of her ultra-Orthodox Jewish family. Leah Vincent was born into the Yeshivish community, a fundamentalist sect of ultra-Orthodox Judaism. As the daughter of an influential rabbi, Leah and her ten siblings were raised to worship two things: God and the men who ruled their world. But the tradition-bound future Leah envisioned for herself was cut short when, at sixteen, she was caught exchanging letters with a male friend, a violation of religious law that forbids contact between members of the opposite sex. Leah's parents were unforgiving. Afraid, in part, that her behavior would affect the marriage prospects of their other children, they put her on a plane and cut off ties. Cast out in New York City, without a father or husband tethering her to the Orthodox community, Leah was unprepared to navigate the freedoms of secular life. She spent the next few years using her sexuality as a way of attracting the male approval she had been conditioned to seek out as a child, while becoming increasingly unfaithful to the religious dogma of her past.
Fast-paced, mesmerizing, and brutally honest, Cut Me Loose tells the story of one woman's harrowing struggle to define herself as an individual. Through Leah's eyes, we confront not only the oppressive world of religious fundamentalism, but also the broader issues that face even the most secular young women as they grapple with sexuality and identity.
"This lovely and lovingly researched literary gem encompasses diverse eras and cultures and reveals a world of ‘fancies’ and intriguing bits of history... There is much to contemplate and marvel over in Jenkins’ scholarly and highly entertaining book of exuberance." - Booklist, starred review
All the Time in the World takes its cue from an iconic component of medieval life, the book of hours, which prescribed certain readings and contemplations for certain parts of the day throughout the year. Divided into more than seventy-five entries, All the Time in the World is brimming with witty bons mots, interesting etymologies, and arresting anecdotes encompassing an array of cultures and eras. Subjects covered include the daylong ceremony of laying a royal Elizabethan tablecloth, the radicalization of sartorial chic in 1890s Paris,Nostradamus's belief in the aphrodisiac power of jam, the sensuous practice of sniffing incense in fifteenth-century Japan, the American fascination with flaming desserts, the short-lived artistic discipline of “lumia,” or visual music, the evolution of coffee from a religious ritual to a forbidden delight in the Middle East, Henriette d'Angeville's fearless and wine-fueled ascent of Mont Blanc, the elaborate treasure hunts concocted by London's Bright Young Things, and the musical revolution known as bebop.
An antidote to the contemporary cult of “getting things done,” All the Time in the World revives forgotten treasures of the past while inspiring a passion for good living in the present.
Raised in a devout Roman Catholic family in the Netherlands, Paul Glaser was shocked to learn as an adult of his father's Jewish heritage. Grappling with his newfound identity and stunned by his father’s secrecy, Paul set out to discover what happened to his family during World War II and what had caused the long-standing rift between his father and his estranged aunt, Rosie. Piecing together his aunt’s wartime diaries, photographs, and letters, Paul reconstructed the dramatic story of a woman who was caught up in the tragic sweep of World War II.
Rosie Glaser was a magnetic force – hopeful, exuberant, and cunning. An emancipated woman who defied convention, she toured Western Europe teaching ballroom dancing to high acclaim, falling in love hard and often. By the age of twenty-five, she had lost the great love of her life in an aviation accident, married the wrong man, and sought consolation in the arms of yet another. Then the Nazis seized power. For Rosie, a nonpracticing Jew, this marked the beginning of an extremely dangerous ordeal. After operating an illegal dance school in her parents’ attic, Rosie was betrayed by both her ex-husband and her lover, taken prisoner by the SS and sent to a series of concentration camps. But her enemies were unable to destroy her and,
remarkably, she survived, in part by giving dance and etiquette lessons to her captors. Rosie was an entertainer at heart, and her vivacious spirit, her effervescent charm, and her incredible resourcefulness kept her alive amid horrendous tragedy.
Taking a cue from the exotic encyclopedias of the sixteenth century, which brimmed with mysterious artifacts, Jessica Kerwin Jenkins’s Encyclopedia of the Exquisite focuses on the elegant, the rare, the commonplace, and the delightful. A compendium of style, it merges whimsy and practicality, traipsing through the fine arts and the worlds of fashion, food, travel, home, garden, and beauty.
Each entry features several engaging anecdotes, illuminating the curious past of each enduring source of beauty. Subjects covered include the explosive history of champagne, the art of lounging on a divan, the emergence of “frillies”, the first lacy, racy lingerie, the ancient uses of sweet-smelling saffron, the wild riot incited by the appearance of London’s first top hat, Julia Child’s tip for cooking the perfect omelet, the polarizing practice of wearing red lipstick during World War II, Louis XIV’s fondness for the luscious Bartlett pear, the Indian origin of badminton, Parliament’s 1650 attempt to suppress Europe’s beauty mark fad, the evolution of the Japanese kimono, the pilgrimage of Central Park’s Egyptian obelisk, and the fanciful thrill of dining alfresco.
Cleverly illustrated, Encyclopedia of the Exquisite is an ode to life’s plenty, from the extravagant to the eccentric. It is a celebration of luxury that doesn’t necessarily require money.
A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year
“Acidly funny...As involving, and as layered, as a good coming-of-age novel... Steinberg proves to be a keen observer, and a morally serious one. His memoir is wriggling and alive.” - The New York Times
Avi Steinberg is stumped. After defecting from yeshiva to attend Harvard, he has nothing but a senior thesis on Bugs Bunny to show for himself. While his friends and classmates advance in the world, Steinberg remains stuck at a crossroads, his “romantic” existence as a freelance obituary writer no longer cutting it.
Seeking direction (and dental insurance) Steinberg takes a job running the library counter at a Boston prison. He is quickly drawn into the community of outcasts that forms among his bookshelves - an assortment of quirky regulars, including con men, pimps, minor prophets, even ghosts - all searching for the perfect book and a connection to the outside world. Steinberg recounts their daily dramas with heartbreak and humor in this one-of-a-kind memoir - a piercing exploration of prison
culture and an entertaining tale of one young man’s earnest attempt to find his place in the world.
Subversive, funny, and effortlessly droll, Jules Feiffer’s cartoons were all over New York in the 1960s and ’70s - featured in the Village Voice, but also cut out and pinned to bulletin boards in offices and on refrigerators at home. Feiffer describes himself as “lucking into the zeitgeist,” and there’s some truth to the sentiment, Feiffer’s brand of satire reflected Americans’ ambivalence about the Vietnam War, changing social mores, and much more.
Feiffer’s memoir, Backing into Forward, like his cartoons, is sharply perceptive with a distinctive bite of mordant humor. Beginning with his childhood in Brooklyn, Feiffer paints a picture of a troubled kid with an overbearing mother and a host of crippling anxieties. From there, he discusses his apprenticeship with his hero, Will Eisner, and his time serving in the military during the Korean War, which saw him both feigning a breakdown and penning a cartoon narrative called “Munro” that solidified his distinctive aesthetic as an artist. While Feiffer’s voice grounds the book, the sheer scope of his artistic accomplishment, from his cartoons turning up in the New Yorker, Playboy, and the Nation to his plays and film scripts, is remarkable and keeps the narrative bouncing along at a speedy clip. A compelling combination of a natural sense of humor and a ruthless dedication to authenticity, Backing into Forward is full of wit and verve, often moving but never sentimental.
“Steinberg’s epic voyage is one born of admiration, and it never loses the thrill of discovery... [He] gracefully navigates the tricky line between fan and voyeur.” - The Boston Globe
Is The Book of Mormon a Great American Novel? Avi Steinberg thinks so. In this quirky travelogue - part fan nonfiction, part personal quest - he follows the trail laid out in
Joseph Smith’s book. From Jerusalem to the ruined Mayan cities of Central America to upstate New York and, finally, to Jackson County, Missouri - the spot Smith identified as the site of the Garden of Eden - Steinberg traces The Book’s unexpected path and grapples with Joseph Smith’s demons - and his own. Literate and funny, personal and provocative, the genre-bending The Lost Book of Mormon boldly explores our deeply human impulse to write books, and affirms the abiding power of story.
Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize
Longlisted for the 2015 PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography
A Kirkus Best Biography of 2014
“In a fascinating revisionist portrait, Downey sketches a monarch both adored and demonised, and makes the case that Isabella laid the foundation for the first global superpower.” - BBC.com
An engrossing and revolutionary biography of Isabella of Castile, the controversial Queen of Spain who sponsored Christopher Columbus's journey to the New World, established the Spanish Inquisition, and became one of the most influential female rulers in history.
In 1474, when most women were almost powerless, twenty-three-year-old Isabella defied a hostile brother and a mercurial husband to seize control of Castile and León. Her subsequent feats were legendary. She ended a twenty-four-generation struggle between Muslims and Christians, forcing North African invaders back over the Mediterranean Sea. She laid the foundation for a unified Spain. She sponsored Columbus’s trip to the Indies and negotiated Spanish control over much of the New World. She also annihilated all who stood against her by establishing a bloody religious Inquisition that would darken Spain’s reputation for centuries.
Whether saintly or satanic, no female leader has done more to shape our modern world. Yet history has all but forgotten Isabella’s influence. Using new scholarship, Downey’s luminous biography tells the story of this brilliant, fervent, forgotten woman, the faith that propelled her through life, and the land of ancient conflicts and
intrigue she brought under her command.
Months before the outbreak of World War II, Heinrich Himmler - the prime architect of the Holocaust - designed a special concentration camp for women, located fifty miles north of Berlin. Only a small number of the prisoners were Jewish. Ravensbrück was primarily a place for the Nazis to hold other inferior beings: Jehovah’s Witnesses, Resistance fighters, lesbians, prostitutes, and aristocrats - even the sister of New York’s Mayor LaGuardia. Over six years the prisoners endured forced labor, torture, starvation, and random execution. In the final months of the war, Ravensbrück became an extermination camp. Estimates of the final death toll have ranged from 30,000 to 90,000.
For decades the story of Ravensbrück was hidden behind the Iron Curtain. Now, using
testimony unearthed since the end of the Cold War and interviews with survivors who have never talked before, Sarah Helm takes us into the heart of the camp. The result is a landmark achievement that weaves together many accounts, following figures on both sides of the prisoner/guard divide. Chilling, compelling, and deeply necessary,
Ravensbrück is essential reading for anyone concerned with Nazi history.